Blake Nordstrom, one of the leaders of the Seattle-based Nordstrom retail chain, died on Wednesday in Seattle at the age of 58. His passing comes less than a month after he disclosed that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma.
The company confirmed Wednesday’s news with a statement online, conveying “deep sadness” over what it called an unexpected passing. Executive leadership of Nordstrom will continue under company co-presidents Pete and Erik Nordstrom, the retailer said.
“My heart goes out to the Nordstrom family and everyone at the company during this difficult time,” Brad Smith, Nordstrom chairman of the board and longtime Intuit CEO, said in a statement. “Everyone who worked with Blake knew of his passion and deep commitment to employees, customers and the communities we serve. We are fortunate to have continued leadership from co-presidents Pete and Erik Nordstrom.”
The passing comes at a time of increased scrutiny for Nordstrom — and traditional retail in general — as it fights to keep pace in an e-commerce world dominated by its Seattle neighbor, Amazon. Nordstrom has struggled to find its technological place in recent years and in 2018 flirted with an effort to take the company private.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing dated Dec. 10, Blake Nordstrom addressed employees, customers and shareholders in sharing his cancer diagnosis and said that he and his doctors were optimistic and encouraged by his prognosis for what he called a treatable form of lymphoma.
“I will undergo chemotherapy over the next few months in Seattle and will reduce my scheduled travel during this time,” Blake wrote. “As I focus on my health and knowing some days will be better than others, I’m told I can otherwise continue to work throughout this process as normal.
“Cancer is all too common, and I know many of you have dealt with it yourselves or know someone who has,” he continued. “I have a good team of doctors and value the support of my family and friends. … Both personally and professionally, I am confident in the path forward.”
Tom Alberg, co-founder and managing director of Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, told GeekWire that Blake was “an inspirational leader for the company and our community.”
“We will greatly miss him,” Alberg said Wednesday. “I was privileged to work with Blake on community issues and when Nordstrom and Madrona partnered to launch Nordstrom.com in 1999. He always put the customer first and was an eager learner about this new thing called e-commerce.”
Blake was the great-grandson of John W. Nordstrom, who founded the company bearing the family name in 1901. A bio on Bloomberg.com said that Blake joined the company in 1976, beginning in the stockroom of the downtown Seattle store.
He held various leadership positions throughout his decades with Nordstrom, including as executive vice president and president of Nordstrom Rack.